You’ve Never Seen Central America Like This

Costa Rica and Panama, as only UnCruise can show it to you. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

I’ve been back from my UnCruise Adventures Uncharted Isthmus! Sloths, Monkeys and Mangroves itinerary aboard the Safari Voyager  in Costa Rica and Panama for two weeks now. I always like writing recaps a few weeks after the fact, as it lets the memories and facts gel together to get a better picture of what this full cruise was really like. And, over the course of a week, I came to the conclusion that UnCruise does Costa Rica and Panama every bit as well as the company’s bred-and-butter itineraries in Alaska.

The full journey:

Safari Voyager - Costa Rica & Panama

DAYPORT
Day 1Arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica & Embarkation in Puerto Caldera
Day 2Manuel Antonio National Park, CR
Day 3Curu National Park, CR
Day 4Oso Peninsula, CR
Day 5Golfo Dulce & Golfito, CR
Day 6Isla de Coiba, Panama
Day 7Transiting the Panama Canal
Day 8Disembarkation, post-cruise Panama City stay and recap.

Post-Cruise at the Hotel Bristol

Welcome to the Hotel Bristol, Panama City. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

It’s worth briefly touching on my post-cruise stay at the Hotel Bristol in Panama City. It’s my second time staying at the hotel, which is a wonderful property located in the heart of the city’s financial district. I’d heartily recommend anyone booking this voyage with UnCruise should take advantage of their post-cruise add-on at the Bristol, in order to spend some time exploring Panama City.

It’s also worth going here and staying for a night because the transfer from the ship will drop you off here anyhow before continuing on to the airport for those with early-morning flights. The downside, of course, is that you won’t be able to get into your room at 9am, but I’ve had success both times being able to get my room around 1:00 pm if you visit the front desk and ask nicely. Luggage storage is available for no charge.

The Hotel Bristol is located in the heart of…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…Panama City’s Financial District. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Also noteworthy at the hotel: the Salsipuedes Bar and Restaurant, just off the right of the main lobby, are fantastic. Authentic Panamanian cuisine is offered here, and the small, clubby bar adjacent to it offers up a wide variety of Panamanian beers and liquors. Hemingway would have definitely approved of this place.

The only downside to what was an otherwise enjoyable one-night stay: sound from a nearby disco bleeds into the rooms on the second floor badly. Expect to hear lots of loud, thumping bass until the wee hours of the morning. I was so exhausted I fell asleep anyway, but if you’re a light sleeper, ask for a room on a higher floor – or bring earplugs.

Who Is This Cruise Great For?

Exploring the lush mangroves of Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce with UnCruise Adventures. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

If you want to see the Panama Canal by small-ship in an all-inclusive environment, this one is a no-brainer. Despite the fact that my voyage was on the second run ever for UnCruise in Costa Rica, the line is already showing an exceptionally high level of polish, both on-land and onboard.

Obviously, if you love nature and being outdoors, this is the cruise for you. The opportunities for hikes, walks, and trail strolls suitable for all activity levels are abundant. If you love wildlife, it’s hard to not fall in love with this itinerary, simply because it’s showing you what other lines – even other small-ship lines – can’t or don’t. You might not know what a howler monkey is before you go, but trust me: after seven days in UnCruise’s Costa Rica, you sure will!

Do you have to be in peak physical condition? No. But you should be mobile. Safari Voyager has no elevator onboard, and the excursions ashore are unsuitable for anyone who suffers from severe mobility impairments.

Guided hikes were arguably the highlight of this cruise. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

But that doesn’t mean you have to be young, either. The average age onboard was about 60-plus, and it was inspiring to see folks twice my age go out and experience new adventures, like hiking through the jungle or taking one of the stand-up paddleboards out for a spin.

I also can’t say enough good things about the refit to the Safari Voyager. I was underwhelmed by her when I first sailed aboard her back in 2014 in the Sea of Cortes. She had been run hard, and lacked any sort of sparkle. UnCruise had did the best they could after acquiring her, but the bumps and bruises her previous operator left were hard to mask.

Also noteworthy: Safari Voyager’s sparkly-new refit. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Her refit, in my opinion, elevates her to one of the prettiest ships in the UnCruise fleet. I particularly liked the locally-handcrafted artwork and the beautiful new pillows, throws, and carpeting, not to mention the completely redone lighting sources throughout the ship and the abundance of electrical outlets. The next time you’re on a ship – any ship – remember: someone had to make all of this. This stuff isn’t picked from a catalogue. Like decorating a fine hotel, all of these elements must come together in a way that is not just attractive, but fully-functional as well. And that’s hard to do.

She may have lacked sparkle in 2014, but Safari Voyager now has a wonderful personality all her own. I can’t wait to sail aboard her again.

Who Should Pick Something Else?

Beach strolls proved to be a great option for guests who wanted to take things easy. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

If you need constant stimulation or absolutely have to have “big ship” amenities like production shows – or constant Wi-Fi internet – this isn’t the one for you. Much of the fun on these UnCruise voyages can be found on the daily adventures ashore, while evenings tend to focus on socializing over cocktails and discussing the day’s adventures, or past travels. Books and board games are provided onboard, and offer a great chance to connect with your fellow guests.

As to the Wi-Fi: UnCruise does not offer Wi-Fi on any of its ships, with the exception of its chartered vessel in the Galapagos Islands. The line also spells that out very clearly in its brochure and on its website. I like that, a lot, and I hope the company doesn’t change that policy. If you absolutely must stay connected, cellular signals on this voyage were fairly good, with only a few days of no connectivity.

Finally, anyone with serious mobility issues will want to give this one a pass.

The Final Say:

This spectacular cruise offers up the best that Costa Rica and Panama have to offer, conducted with the thoughtfulness, excitement and dedication to quality that UnCruise has built its reputation upon. It joins a very short list of itineraries that I’d want to do again and again.

Highly recommended.

Heading off into the Panamanian sunset. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report aboard UnCruise Adventures’ Safari Voyager has sadly come to a close, but stay tuned for our updated Photo Tour of the Safari Voyager! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

Safari Voyager - Costa Rica & Panama

DAYPORT
Day 1Arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica & Embarkation in Puerto Caldera
Day 2Manuel Antonio National Park, CR
Day 3Curu National Park, CR
Day 4Oso Peninsula, CR
Day 5Golfo Dulce & Golfito, CR
Day 6Isla de Coiba, Panama
Day 7Transiting the Panama Canal
Day 8Disembarkation, post-cruise Panama City stay and recap.
 

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